The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020

2020 was a year that threw a huge wrench into a lot of movie-goers’ plans. As theaters shut their doors and new releases continuously changed dates, there were movie related content creators that had to either adapt as best they could or completely change their formula. Fortunately for 18 Cinema Lane, the impact of this year’s Coronavirus didn’t change the type of content published on the site. As with the previous two years, I saw more good movies than bad. This is honestly the first year where I had difficulty creating my top ten best movies list because of the quantity of enjoyable films that left a memorable impression on me. Since I published my worst movies of the year list first last year, I’ll post my best movies of the year list first this time around. As usual, I will begin the list with my honorable mentions and then move on to the official top ten list. Now let’s get this list started!

Sparkly and starry 2020 image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by kjpargeter – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt; Image found at freepik.com.
Honorable Mentions

Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, Where There’s a Will, Generation Gap, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Sweet Surrender, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Dead Over Diamonds, Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder, House of the Long Shadows, Up in the Air, The Crow, Mystery Woman: Game Time, Fashionably Yours, Finding Forrester, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Expecting a Miracle, Time Share, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf, Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend, Perry Mason Returns, Perry Mason and the Notorious Nun, Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, The Terry Fox Story, Follow Your Heart, House of Wax, Funny Face, and The Christmas Bow

10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

Looking back on the four film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work I’ve reviewed, I realize how lucky I am to come across those I enjoyed. Despite having never read Nicholas Nickleby, this production was both understandable and engaging! With the 2002 version of this story, its balance of joy and despair is a staple of the world-famous author’s I recognize from his other stories like Oliver Twist. As I said in my review of Nicholas Nickleby, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer, especially during a year like 2020. I don’t often come across a movie that is so good, it makes me want to seek out its original source material. For this film, however, I just found an exception!

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

9. The Unfinished Dance

This is an interesting entry from the Breen Code era. It’s a darker musical that is dark in nature for the sake of providing thought-provoking commentary. Like I said in my review, The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. All of the musical numbers in this film have a strong reason for being in the story, as opposed to typical musicals where the numbers feel more spontaneous than planned. Even though dance is emphasized more than the story, the quality of the routines themselves make this film worth a watch! The movie is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about.

Take 3: The Unfinished Dance Review + 190 Follower Thank You

8. If You Believe

I’m glad I was given an opportunity to re-watch this film, as it was just as enjoyable as when I first saw it! The story moves away from the aesthetic that most Christmas movies adopt. Instead, it relies on the messages and themes associated with the Christmas holiday. This creative decision is a breath of fresh air, bringing a different kind of narrative that isn’t often found during that time of year. If You Believe is a film that does what it sets out to do. It also helps that it has stood the test of time.

Take 3: If You Believe Review

7. Sweet Nothing in My Ear

This is the kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I wish was made more often, one where unique concepts are explored and celebrated. Instead of following a plot, the story revolves around a debate. The subject matter was not only handled with reverence, but each perspective was shown in a respectful light. I’m not a fan of this film’s ending, but I respect Hallmark’s decision to include it in the script, as it respects the audience’s intelligence. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a title from this collection that can be used as an introduction to Hallmark Hall of Fame!

6. From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli has a reputation for giving it their all when it comes to making movies. Besides their signature animation style, they also take the time to create fantastic worlds and memorable characters. While From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t contain any of the magical elements that can sometimes be found in Studio Ghibli’s stories, the project doesn’t feel out of place in their collection. The plot is a simple one, but the inclusion of interesting characters and world-building is what makes it work. It also contains a great message about history that fits into the script very well.

Take 3: From Up on Poppy Hill Review + 200 Follower Thank You

Howl’s Moving Castle poster created by Studio Ghibli, Toho, and The Walt Disney Company. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798188/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.
5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is more than just a story about Batman. It’s a chance for audience members to see a side of this superhero that doesn’t often get presented in the world of film. The movie is a good example of how impressive 2-D animation can be. Even though the world has moved on to the wonders of 3-D and computer graphics, there will always be a place for older styles of animation. Despite having seen only a handful of Batman films, I can honestly say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the better options! The story itself is just as interesting as the world of Gotham City.

Take 3: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review

4. Grace & Glorie

Grace & Glorie contains Hallmark’s favorite cliché of featuring a woman from a big city moving to a small town. But what sets this story apart is how that cliché is not the main focus of the film. Instead, the plot revolves around the friendship of Grace and Gloria. Because the titular characters were portrayed by two strong actresses, it made the dynamic between Grace and Gloria interesting to watch. Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, this Hallmark Hall of Fame title has a simpler plot that works in its favor. Grace & Glorie is a type of story that is rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The movie is also an underrated gem that I wish more Hallmark fans were aware of.

3. Matinee

With the way the theatrical landscape was affected in 2020, it kind of feels weird that a film like Matinee would appear on a best movies of the year list for 2020. But instead of making me miss the cinema or feel jealous of the characters as they get to see a movie in a theater, this particular 1993 title reminded me of what I love about film. Because I have a special place in my heart for Phantom of the Megaplex, Matinee showed me that there is more than one story that could show people how movies can be fun. One of the messages of this narrative is that film can provide a much-needed break from the troubles of the real world. With the way 2020 turned out, Matinee seemed to come at the right place and time.

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

2. The Boy Who Could Fly

Every year, there is that one movie that catches me by surprise because of how good it is. The Boy Who Could Fly was definitely that film in 2020! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the overall story has aged. Given the subject material and the time it was released in, I can certainly say that my expectations were subverted. While The Boy Who Could Fly would be considered a “teen movie”, it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most of these types of stories would contain. The themes of showing compassion for others, dealing with grief, and understanding people’s differences are given center stage.

Take 3: The Boy Who Could Fly Review (PB & J Double Feature Part 2)

1. Anchors Aweigh

Who knew a Frank Sinatra movie would become the best one I saw in 2020? When I look back on this film, I remember how much fun I had watching it! As I said in my review, I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, which shows how the film’s joyful nature can certainly help anyone improve their mood. Anchors Aweigh is a strong movie on so many different levels. The acting, story, and musical numbers alone showcase how much thought and effort went into the overall production. If I were to introduce someone to the Breen Code era or musicals in general, this is the film I’d show them. Anchors Aweigh was certainly a bright spot in a year like 2020.

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2020

As Christmas is just around the corner, it’s time for me to publish my annual Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List! For those who are new to 18 Cinema Lane, I post a Christmas related article in honor of the holiday to sharing the things I, as a movie blogger, would like to receive as Christmas gifts. This is a tradition I started back in 2018. While I know I won’t get most of the items on my list, I try to choose those that seem realistic. Because my blog primarily revolves around movies, I pick “gifts” that have something to do with film. Unless I say otherwise, the screenshots were taken taken by me. If you’d like to read my previous Christmas wish-lists, I will provide the links here:

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2019

Holly berry Christmas wish-list image created by Freepik from freepik.com. Christmas vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Something You Want

In 2020, Hallmark didn’t release any new Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. The on-going Coronavirus is likely one of the reasons why this was the case. Due to the lack of Hallmark Hall of Fame films this year, I’d like to see Hallmark create four new HHoF presentations in 2021 to make up for this. I feel that Hallmark has what it takes to tell interesting stories through visually appealing and captivating projects, something I’ve mentioned at various moments on my blog. If they chose to make four new HHoF movies, each story could revolve around a different seasonal component. The first film could have something to do with either St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or Memorial Day, as those holidays are set around springtime. As the second film might be released during the summer, Fourth of July or Father’s Day could have a primary place in the plot. Because Halloween or Thanksgiving movies from Hallmark are far and few between, the third HHoF film might focus on those holidays. Since Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movies have a staple in the collection, the last film of the aforementioned four would revolve around Christmas. If Hallmark could create forty new Christmas movies among two networks during a pandemic, then they can find the time to release four new Hallmark Hall of Fame films in 2021.

Something You Need to See

Since I’ve talked about this subject at length before, I won’t repeat myself. All I’ll say is that I want the Tim Pope cut of The Crow: City of Angels to see the light of day. For me, this is more than just re-releasing a decades old movie. It’s about consumer advocacy and respecting the cinematic creative process. As of mid-to-late December 2020, my editorial about this topic has received over 200 views! This means a lot to me because it shows that that many people care about this particular issue. Hopefully, Paramount (the studio who owns the distribution rights to The Crow: City of Angels) hears our voices and releases this version of the film. If you would like to read my aforementioned editorial, here’s the link:

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Release the Tim Pope Cut of ‘The Crow: City of Angels’

The Crow: City of Angels poster created by Dimension Films and Miramax Films. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Crow_2.jpg.

A movie related piece of clothing or accessory I’d want to wear

Similar to last year’s Christmas Wish-List, I have two choices for this category. The first is the cargo slim jeans from Perry Mason Returns! This pair of pants was worn by a gas station employee Perry’s assistant, Paul, interacts with toward the end of the movie. What I like about this pair of pants is how they appear to be a different style of cargo pants that isn’t common. Also, I think it’s cool how the pockets are big enough to fit a rolled up readable magazine. The second is the silver pair of pants Barbara Niven’s character, Joan, wears in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Promise. That is one of the coolest pairs of pants I’ve ever seen! Whenever Joan moved from location to location, the pants always shined. It is definitely an ‘80s piece that I would love to have in my wardrobe.

A book I’ve read that I’d like to see adapted into a film

Instead of talking about one book like I have in the past, I will talk about two of them. Both Hallmark Hall of Fame and BYU-TV have done a good job creating historical/period films in years prior. Because of this, To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson would make a good presentation from either network, as the story takes place in the 1930s! While reading this book back in May, I couldn’t help noticing several parallels between the polio epidemic described in the book and the Coronavirus pandemic the world experienced in 2020. Just to provide one example, Noreen, the narrator of the story, discusses how some businesses were closed to the public and how there were periods of quarantine. If Hallmark or BYU-TV wanted to create a film in response to the Coronavirus, this particular story would be an interesting way to discuss that without coming across as too on the nose.

Another book I read this year was Zlata’s Diary. As I was reading, I came across this quote:

“I think about all the films that could be made in Sarajevo. There are loads of subjects for films here”.

Now that I think about it, I can’t think of many films about the Bosnian War, especially from the perspective of a civilian from Sarajevo. When it comes to Zlata’s suggestion of films about and/or filmed in Sarajevo, maybe this is the decade where that dream comes true. As I said about BYU-TV, they have done a good job at creating historical/period films. What they have also done is effectively told stories involving conflict. A perfect example is the Christmas film, Instrument of War. This movie showed the horrors of World War II without being graphic when it came to violence. With everything I just said, I could see BYU-TV adapting Zlata’s Diary into a film.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Christmas Wish-List? Is there anything movie related you’d add to your list? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Sea of Grass Review

When I participated in last year’s Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and One Christmas. The first movie was not my cup of tea, but I found the second movie to be just ok. This time around, I decided to write about one movie starring both Spencer and Katharine. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch films from the Western genre often. This is the reason why I chose to review The Sea of Grass. Looking back on the movies I’ve seen from Spencer and Katharine’s filmographies, this is the first time I’ve seen one of their titles where both actors were the leads. Spencer and Katharine are talented actors individually, so it was interesting to see them acting alongside one another!

The Sea of Grass poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In The Sea of Grass, Katharine Hepburn portrays Lutie Cameron, a St. Louis native who moves to the country in order to marry Colonel Jim Brewton. Toward the beginning of the film, Lutie comes across as naïve, as she is a romantic at heart. As she stays in the country, Lutie gains a sense of maturity and grows as a person. Throughout her character’s journey, Katharine was able to show this transition in her acting performance by adopting a variety of emotions. The “sea of grass” this film is named after is Colonel Jim Brewton’s favorite spot. While talking about it with Lutie, Jim describes the fields like a convincing salesman. His face contains a look of longing; reflecting on the past, present, and future of his prized field of grass. The way he talks about it shows how much he cares for this patch of earth. The facial expressions and tone of voice Spencer adopts persuade the audience of this location’s importance. Spencer’s expressions and vocal inflections also reveal the cracks in Jim’s foundation as the story continues. Brice Chamberlain, a local lawyer, is portrayed by Melvyn Douglas. Whenever his character interacted with Lutie, Melvyn was able to, talent-wise, go toe-to-toe with Katharine. He delivered thought-out remarks with a serious calm that one might expect from a respected lawyer. A professional composure was also present in Melvyn’s performance. Because his on-screen personality was different from Katharine’s, it created an interesting dynamic.

The scenery: The majority of The Sea of Grass takes place in the country. Because of this, the natural landscape of this environment is shown in several scenes! When characters travel through the desert, huge mountainous rocks illustrate just how small humans are compared to the large scope of nature. Long and medium shots are used to emphasis this idea. Even the “sea of grass” is featured in a few scenes, its beauty captured well on screen! Sweeping shots showed the vast size of this field. As the wind blew, the movements of the grass looked like the rippling of water. All of these components came together to create a calming space!

Katharine’s wardrobe: Throughout the movie, Katharine showcased an impressive wardrobe that complimented her well! This is because all of her outfits were simple, but elegant. When Lutie and Jim are sharing their first dinner after their wedding, she wears a white long-sleeved dress with a small set of flowers in the front of the dress’s top. Later in the movie, Katharine wears a black-and-white, over-the shoulder dress. This outfit was paired nicely with a dainty black choker and ponytail hair-do. What’s also worth pointing out is how Katharine’s wardrobe in The Sea of Grass appeared historically accurate with the film’s time period.

The Third Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

More emphasis on telling: At the beginning of the movie, several people in Salt Fork inform Lutie about how awful of a person Jim is. He is, apparently, such a bad person, some compare him to a tyrant. While the audience can hear Jim say harmful things, they never get to see him do harmful actions. This creative decision gives the viewers only part of a bigger picture when it comes to Jim Brewton. Whenever the subject of people using the “sea of grass” is brought up, Jim is very specific about how the land should be used. If someone objects to these ideas, Jim tells others what he’s going to do instead of carrying out the deed.

No major conflict: Since the film is called The Sea of Grass, you’d think most of the story would revolve around the “sea of grass” itself. Instead, the film prioritizes the personal events of the characters. Stories that are character driven can work. But when you have an interesting conflict like how to utilize a field of grass, the character’s stories don’t seem as interesting. While the triumphs and tragedies of Lutie and company are highlighted, the “sea of grass” is relegated to a subplot.

Times moves too fast: In a movie where time progresses, there is usually some indicator that a jump in time has occurred. This is done through on-screen text or a voice-over. The Sea of Grass, unfortunately, doesn’t utilize any techniques to inform their audience that time has moved forward, causing changes to appear abruptly. A perfect example are the lives of Sara Beth and Brock. In one scene, Sara Beth is shown as a little girl, while Brock is a toddler. The very next scene shows Sara Beth and Brock as older children, appearing to be ten and eight.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review The Sea of Grass, I wanted to expand my Western genre horizons. This decision taught me that Western tragedies do exist. Despite seeing a handful of Westerns, the movie was quite different from other films I’ve seen in this genre. Even though I knew that this movie was about a rocky relationship, it was sadder than I expected. The Sea of Grass is a fine film with strong components, like the acting and scenery. However, it does have its flaws that shouldn’t be ignored. While the “sea of grass” is shown on screen, it isn’t as significant as the title would suggest. In fact, this location feels more like a glorified backdrop. I will say that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy do work well together as actors. As the years go by, I would like to see more of their films where they both star as the leads.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Do you like watching Western films? Are there any Westerns you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Follow Your Heart Review

Last week, I reviewed JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift. While my Hallmark related content, especially from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, has been well-received, my review of the 2020 sequel became more popular than I expected. As of early October, that post has acquired 6 likes and over 200 views! Because of this, I decided to review Follow Your Heart! Hallmark hasn’t released a movie about an Amish community since 2017’s An Uncommon Grace. When Follow Your Heart was added to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Fall schedule, I found it to be a big deal, especially since a three-year creative void was being filled. On multiple occasions, I’ve said that I wished Hallmark would try new things when it came to their story-telling. From the looks of it, Follow Your Heart may be a step in that direction!

Follow Your Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am familiar with Galadriel Stineman, as an actress, through her work on The Middle. It seems like her acting experiences on that show have paid off! A strength in Galadriel’s portrayal of Kathy Yoder was her transitions between different emotions. After Kathy and her boyfriend, Jack, leave the spa, Kathy received a voice message on her phone about her father’s passing. Galadriel’s facial expression and emotions quickly change from happily care-free to sadly guilty about missing the call. Madison Lawlor did a really good job with her portrayal of Kathy’s sister, Miriam! The consistency in her performance is what made it stand out. In Follow Your Heart, Miriam was upset at her sister for leaving the Amish community. Whenever she interacted with Kathy, the tension between these two characters could be felt. Another character that interacts with Kathy often is Isaac Mast, who was portrayed by Kevin Joy! Throughout the film, Isaac had a more easy-going personality. It also helped that Kevin and Galadriel shared good on-screen chemistry. These factors, along with quality acting talents, assisted Kevin in partially carrying this film!

Good audio: In my JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift review, I talked about Hallmark’s recent issue with poor audio. This was, fortunately, not the case for Follow Your Heart! All of the dialogue could be understood and heard clearly. Various sounds and music played in the background, making their existence known without overpowering scenes. While watching this film, I never felt the need to adjust the volume on my television. This definitely added to my movie-viewing experience!

New takes on tried-and-true cliches: As I also mentioned in my review of JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Hallmark loves adding cliches in their movies. What I liked about Follow Your Heart was how there were new takes on these cliches! The most overused one is the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown”. In Follow Your Heart, Kathy comes back to her Amish community. She’s not only returning to a smaller town, but she’s also returning to a culture. Speaking of culture, a cultural misunderstanding influenced the “it’s not what you think” cliché found in this movie. I won’t spoil the story if you haven’t seen the film yet. But I will say this new creative approach presented a dynamic that isn’t often seen in Hallmark’s projects.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Very few explanations about Amish culture: When an Amish community is presented in a film, the film’s creative team devotes some time to explaining certain aspects of Amish culture. With Follow Your Heart, however, it felt like the movie’s creative team expected their audience to be mostly or completely educated about the lives of the Amish. While Kathy does explain that the Amish from Mountain View, her hometown, don’t believe in artistic expression, this is the only explanation about Amish culture the film provides. During one conversation, Miriam brings up the subject of Rumspringa. This is when teenagers or young adults temporarily leave their Amish communities in order to experience the English world. The short journey is meant to help these young men and women choose the course of their future. Sadly, this explanation was not presented in Follow Your Heart.

Incredibly rude friends: In a movie where a female protagonist has to choose between two male characters, the male protagonist is purposefully designed to appear as a better option. But in Follow Your Heart, Kathy’s boyfriend, Jack, was incredibly rude, even by Hallmark’s standards. While Kathy is mourning over her father’s death, all Jack seems to care about is whether she’ll agree to co-host a reality travel show. Even his views on Amish culture are closed minded, as he calls Isaac a “Renaissance man”. Kathy’s manager, Evelyn, is no better than Jack. She puts more emphasis on Kathy’s career than her client’s wellbeing. Evelyn also calls Isaac “sexy” because she likes his aesthetic and Kathy’s Amish attire a “costume”. The rudeness from Kathy’s manager and boyfriend were very off-putting.

Characters’ perspectives changing too quickly: Follow Your Heart featured a few occasions where characters’ perspectives changed too quickly. Kathy’s sister, Miriam, serves as one example. For most of the movie, Miriam is bitter about Kathy’s return to Mountain View. When Miriam comes across an object from the past, she immediately sees her sister in a new light. To me, this transition of beliefs didn’t feel realistic. What would have worked instead was seeing Miriam change over time.

My overall impression:

No movie featuring any Amish community should be the “end all, be all” when it comes to education about Amish culture. While film can introduce people to certain ideas and beliefs, thorough research needs to be done in one’s spare time. With that said, Follow Your Heart could have included more explanations about Amish customs and beliefs. I don’t think it was a good idea for the film’s creative team to assume their audience knew almost everything about a typical Amish community. Despite this, the movie was solid! The most notable aspect of Follow Your Heart was how tried-and-true cliches were presented in new ways. This gave the overall story a breath of fresh air while allowing unique perspectives to be showcased. I wish Hallmark would use this approach when making their films and tv shows; thinking outside the box and taking creative risks. If they did, maybe we wouldn’t see the same reused narratives that expect a different result.

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Did you see Follow Your Heart? If so, what are your thoughts on it? Leave your comments in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

For A Shroud of Thoughts’ 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon, I decided to choose a film that was already located on my DVR. Since last February, I have had a recording of the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Because this story takes place in 19th century England and because this blogathon celebrates British cinema, reviewing the movie seemed like a perfect choice! Nicholas Nickleby is not the first adaptation based on a Charles Dickens novel I’ve written about. Within these two years, I have reviewed Oliver!, Oliver & Company, and The Death of Poor Joe. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know Nicholas Nickleby was based on a book by Charles Dickens until I saw the film’s opening credits. This film selection is a blessing in disguise. It not only gives me an opportunity to watch more movies from my DVR, but it also allows me to expand my cinematic horizons!

This is a screenshot I took with my phone of the movie’s poster that was displayed on my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Nicholas and Smike have one of the most beautiful friendships I’ve ever seen put on film! This is the result of good screen-writing and good acting! Charlie Hunnam and Jamie Bell put emotion and heart into their individual roles. Together, they display strong on-screen camaraderie. A great example is when Nicholas is trying to read a story to Smike at Dotheboys Hall. Nicholas Nickleby contained an ensemble cast. Each actor and actress worked well with one another, as the performances complimented and highlighted every talent shown on screen. From Anne Hathaway’s use of various emotions to Christopher Plummer’s consistency, all the interactions brought out the best in each cast member!

The dialogue: As I just mentioned, Nicholas and Smike’s friendship was partly the result of good screen-writing. The movie’s screen-writing is also what caused the dialogue to be so memorable! Every piece of conversation reflected this film’s time period. However, the dialogue sounded eloquent without being pretentious. It was also easy to understand, allowing the audience to make sense of what the characters are saying. In one scene, Nicholas is helping Smike escape his kidnapping. The way he told Smike to hurry out of his current location contained urgency and importance. Conversations like the one I just referenced were a consistent and present component of this film!

A balance of despair and joy: I haven’t read Nicholas Nickleby, but I have read Oliver Twist. From what I remember, Charles Dickens found a way to balance the ideas of despair and joy. This balance can be found in the 2002 film! In the movie’s darker moments, despair could be seen and felt. It showed how ugliness presented itself in Nicholas’ world. But there was not so much of this ugliness and despair to make the audience feel depressed. Moments of joy and happiness served to counteract the darker moments. When joyous scenes occurred, they felt earned by the characters. At the same time, they didn’t make it seem like the rest of the film couldn’t be taken seriously. Instead, the incorporation of joy showed how there was beauty in the world, especially if Nicholas searched for it.

The 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon banner created by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts. Image found at http://mercurie.blogspot.com/2020/06/announcing-7th-annual-rule-britannia.html.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lots of content in a limited time-frame: Having read two of Charles Dickens’ books, I know there is a lot of content in his stories. While watching Nicholas Nickleby, I could see there was a significant amount of content. The movie is two hours and twelve minutes. But because each plot point was seen as important, the run-time was bogged down by the large number of storylines. This caused the film to feel longer than its run-time. It makes me wonder if this particular narrative would have benefitted from a mini-series format?

Some unsmooth scene transitions: There were a few scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby that weren’t given smooth transitions. When the story shows Kate’s, Nicholas’ sister’s, perspective, the chapter comes and ends more abruptly than other scenes. It almost feels like the plot temporarily shifts the protagonist role from Nicholas to Kate. Even though Kate plays an important role in Nicholas’ life, she is a supporting character, while her brother is the main character.

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Nicholas Nickleby is the fourth adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’ works I’ve reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. Out of these four, the best one is still the 1968 musical Oliver! Because I have read its source material, I know there was some content that was cut from the movie, likely for reasons relating to the run-time. Unlike Oliver!, Nicholas Nickleby contained a lot of content that effected its run-time. However, the story was understandable and the screen-writing was strong! Even though there were a few unsmooth scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby, it never became a common occurrence. What was common was great acting performances, well-written dialogue, and relatable messages! Nicholas Nickleby does a good job at showing how there is both darkness and goodness in our world. In a year like 2020, where it seems like there is one conflict after another, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer. Because of his bad and good experiences, Nicholas Nickleby always perseveres and never takes anything for granted. This is what we can learn from Nicholas’ story, whether or not Charles Dickens intended to teach his readers.

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations from Charles Dickens’ work? Are there any British films you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The 2020 Unpopular Opinions Tag

Last week, I announced I would be publishing a celebratory post to commemorate reaching 200 movie reviews. Now that my 200th review is published, it’s time for the celebrating to begin! Two months ago, I read an Unpopular Opinions Tag post from the creator of Iridium Eye Reviews, Ospreyshire. This post inspired me to create an Unpopular Opinions Tag article of my own! However, I waited for the perfect opportunity to post it. Since publishing 200 movie reviews is an accomplishment, I thought this would be a good way to start the week! Before I begin, I’d like to remind my readers, followers, and visitors that these answers are based on my opinion. This post is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative.

Shocked man image created by Cookie_studio at freepik.com. People photo created by cookie_studio – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.
  1. Popular series I don’t like* (* – as much as other people do)

For this question, I had to put an asterisk by the series I chose. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, I don’t like Signed, Sealed, Delivered anywhere near as much as other people do. I find the overall quality to be inconsistent. While there have been a few movies I enjoyed, the majority of them, in my opinion, are either ok, decent, or bad. It also doesn’t help that the stories tend to emphasize the personal lives of the Postables over the mysteries of the letters. When the next Signed, Sealed, Delivered film is eventually released, I hope it’s one of the better ones.

2. Popular movie I like, but everyone seems to hate

I’ll select two movies for this question: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. I haven’t watched these movies in several years, but I remember liking both of them over the first one. Over time, I discovered most people like the first movie, but dislike the second and third films. Personally, I think the first three films make up a solid trilogy!

3. Love triangle where the character didn’t end up with the character I wanted

I’m going to discuss a relationship from an animated movie for question number three. I haven’t seen FernGully: The Last Rainforest in a long time. However, I recall not agreeing with Crysta’s decision to stay with Pips. I found Pips to be a terrible significant other. Not only does he bully others, but he also manipulates Crysta by creating a false image of himself instead of being honest with her. Based on a video review I saw a few years ago, Pips apparently becomes a nicer person in FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue. But, personally, I feel the sequel was created to justify Crysta’s decision.

4. Popular genre you hardly watch

For me, this genre would definitely be documentaries. Either I don’t have the opportunity to purchase/rent them or I rarely come across one I’m actually excited about. The last one I watched was Life, Animated, which I would recommend to those who are fans of animation. I recently discovered a docuseries called The Road to Miss Amazing, so I might get around to checking that out!

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5. Beloved character you don’t like

Gone with the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara would be my choice for this question. She’s a static character with an unpleasant personality. Following her for about four hours doesn’t help either. I’m also not a fan of Scarlett’s relationship with Rhett Butler, which is one of the unhealthiest relationships in film.

6. Popular show or series I can’t get into

BYU-TV aired reruns of Wind at My Back for a period of time. Because I’m a fan of When Calls the Heart, I thought Wind at My Back would be a show I’d like. I watched two episodes with an open mind, but I ended up not becoming invested in the program. Wind at My Back is a show that tries to be a Hallmark Hall of Fame-esque production without showing an understanding for what makes a Hallmark Hall of Fame project typically work. Based on the two episodes I saw, I found the show to be devoid of humor. Wind at My Back is a show that was meant for someone. However, I recognize that someone was not me.

7. Popular show or movie I have no interest in seeing

When it comes to movies, I have no interest in seeing any of the Sharknado films. I know any title from that series would be a perfect choice for Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon. But just because other people say a film is “so bad it’s good”, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to agree with them. The tv show I’ll choose for this question is the Canadian program, Heartland. This show has been on the air since 2007. Since this chronological story has been running for so long, I don’t have the time to devote to Heartland. Also, I’m a person who watches more movies than television.

8. Popular show or movie I prefer over the book

This year, I read To Kill a Mockingbird and saw its film adaptation. While I thought the book was fine, I found the movie to be a better story-teller than the source material. The 1962 film went to the heart of the text a lot sooner, cutting out a lot of the “slice of life” content I wasn’t a fan of. Visual elements, such as suspense and cinematography, helped to enhance the story.

To Kill a Mockingbird poster created by Brentwood Productions, Pakula-Mulligan, and Universal Pictures. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(1963_US_theatrical_poster).jpg

Bonus Round: Movie I used to love, but I hate now

In this last question, I’ll talk about two movies. The first is High School Musical, a movie I used to like, but now strongly dislike. When it premiered in 2006, I really liked the concept of a modern-day musical airing on Disney Channel. This brought something new to the table. In a short amount of time, High School Musical became bigger than it needed to be, which made it appear everywhere. It also started what I call the “instant celebrity” trend, where characters are no longer allowed to lead typical lives and deal with typical problems (examples: Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens). These things have turned me off from High School Musical.

The next movie is Avatar, a movie that I don’t dislike, but have fallen out of love with. I enjoyed the movie when it first came out. But as time went on, it lost relevancy. It also didn’t help when James Cameron kept pushing back the release dates for his sequels. Every movie doesn’t have to start a franchise, with Avatar as a prime example.

Did you like reading my Unpopular Opinions Tag post? Which tag would you like to see me write about next? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Death of Poor Joe (1901) Review (A Month Without the Code #5)

As Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code comes to a close, I wanted to review a movie that served as the grand finale. Since I found every movie I reviewed so far to be just ok, I knew whichever film I chose had to be memorable in some way. The more I think about my choice, the more confident I feel it will leave an impression. The Death of Poor Joe is not only the oldest film I have written about, it is the shortest film featured on 18 Cinema Lane! This movie is a minute long, revolving around the death of Joe from Bleak House. I read this book several years ago, with Joe being my favorite character. I’m not going to lie; I was not a fan of Charles Dickens’ decision to have Joe die in the story. But after reading Oliver Twist, I gained an understanding for why that decision was made. The Death of Poor Joe also serves as an important piece of film history. It is the oldest existing adaptation of any work from Charles Dickens. It is a former lost film as well, with a curator from the British Film Institute, Bryony Dixon, finding the film in 2012.

This is a screenshot from my phone of the film’s image. It is the closest thing to a film poster I was able to find on the internet. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in my Wild Oranges review, the actors in a silent film have to rely on body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors to portray what their characters are saying and feeling. Laura Bayley, the actress who is cast as the titular character, does a great job using these acting techniques to show what her character is experiencing. Right before Joe dies, the audience sees him looking toward the sky and holding his hands in a praying position. This tells them that Joe is begging God for mercy. The only other actor in this film is Tom Green, who portrays a police officer. Similar to Laura’s performance, Tom also utilized body language, facial expressions, and actions/behaviors in his favor. When the police officer first encounters Joe, he is seen pointing at the protagonist and waving his hand. These gestures indicate the police officer telling the young boy to move off the sidewalk.

The costume design: Another important piece of a silent film is costume design, as this specific component can help express character development. Though the movie’s costume designer is unknown, I was impressed with the costume design I saw! Both outfits, Joe’s and the police officer’s, appeared historically accurate and fit each characterization. They were also distinct, allowing the characters to contrast one another. The police officer can be seen wearing a dark suit and a top hat. This ensemble signifies the police officer’s importance and social standing within that time period. Meanwhile, Joe is shown wearing a shirt and pants that are torn and ragged. Joe’s outfit reminds the audience of how he lacks a parental figure who will look out for his best interests.

The use of snow: I don’t remember if it was snowing when Joe died, as it has been several years since I last read Bleak House. In this short film, however, I like how snow was incorporated into the characters’ surroundings! Snow has a consistent presence in this story, as it covers the ground and top of the wall behind Joe and the police officer. It can also be seen falling from the sky. Because of the black-and-white presentation of the movie, the snow helps create an image that is haunting. The presence of snow instills a feeling sadness as well, warning the audience that an uncontrollable fate is about to take place in the story.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of title cards: Most silent films feature title cards, which help give context to what is happening on screen. This staple of silent movies was absent from The Death of Poor Joe. Audience members who are not familiar with the source material might wonder why they should care about the characters. There is no preparation leading up to Joe’s death, as the event itself happens in mere seconds. If title cards had been included in this film, it may have resolved some of these issues.

No music: Music can strength a movie’s tone and set the mood for the story. But music was excluded from The Death of Poor Joe, causing the film to be very silent. While the narrative itself is sad, music could have enhanced the movie-viewing experience. Dramatic sounds from a violin or a somber piano tune could accompany the visuals well. Certain beats might match up with specific events, promoting a sense of musicality. I know live music would play during a silent film if it were presented in a movie theater. But I wish music was added to The Death of Poor Joe.

A shorter run-time: In this review’s introduction, I mentioned how The Death of Poor Joe was a minute long. Even though I knew this was a short film, I still feel it should have received a longer run-time. Pieces of Joe’s and the police officer’s backstory could have been included in the movie. The audience might be able to spend more time with Joe as a character, which would have made his death more heartbreaking. Seeing how the police officer deals with Joe’s death is an interesting concept to think about. Because The Death of Poor Joe’s run-time was only a minute long, it limits how much story was allowed to be told.

Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The history of The Death of Poor Joe might be more interesting than the film itself. In its 119-year lifespan, the film gained the mysterious title of “lost film”. This status has been placed on the project for about 66 years. Eight years ago, the movie received a new title: found. As someone who has taken an interest in lost media, I am grateful for Bryony Dixon’s and the British Film Institute’s efforts to preserve The Death of Poor Joe! As for the film itself, I thought it was fine. The story was straight-to-the-point and the production quality was impressive. However, I wish the film was longer. As someone who has chosen Joe as their favorite character from Bleak House, it would have been nice to see his story fleshed out more. Music and title cards also would have added to the movie-viewing experience as well. Joe’s on-screen death is the only thing that would need to change if this was a Breen Code era film. While this event is an important part of the story, it would need to meet Breen Code standards.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work? Are there any found films you’d like to see? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: A Matter of Time Review (A Month Without the Code #4)

Because I’m participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code and the 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, I wanted to review one of Ingrid’s films from outside the Breen Code era. On her IMDB filmography, the 1976 movie, A Matter of Time caught my eye. After reading the synopsis, I chose this film as my submission for the blogathon! I was able to watch the movie through a series of videos from the Youtube channel, BroadwaytoRio. The film was broken down into ten parts, each video about ten minutes long. Prior to these blogathons, the only movies of Ingrid Bergman’s I have seen are Casablanca and Gaslight. Both of these films were not only released in the ‘40s, they were also released in the Breen Code era. As this is the first time I’m reviewing a post-1954 movie of Ingrid’s, it’ll be interesting to see how A Matter of Time differs from her two previously mentioned films!

A Mater of Time poster created by American International Pictures. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074878/mediaviewer/rm3625653248.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since I chose to review this movie for the Ingrid Bergman Blogathon, I’m going to talk about her performance first. Ingrid’s role in A Matter of Time is different from her other roles I’ve seen so far. In this film, she carried herself with a sense of power and authority, demanding the audience to focus their attention on her. At the same time, she held mystery and sorrow close to her character’s heart. In the scene where Ingrid’s character, the Contessa, is talking to her ex-husband, she brings so much emotion during the conversation, that the scene itself feels earth-shaking. Even toward the end of her acting career, Ingrid still had what it took, acting wise, to carry a film! Last October, I reviewed the 1991 film, Stepping Out. While watching A Matter of Time, I immediately noticed how Liza’s character was different from the one she portrayed in the aforementioned ‘90s film. Nina, the protagonist of this story, grew as a person over time. She transformed from a timid young woman to someone who knew what she wanted in life. One scene shows Nina having a disagreement about the Contessa with a screenwriter. During this scene, she breaks out of her timid shell to defend her friend. It causes a fire to break forth from Nina, something the audience hadn’t seen up until that point. Similar to Ingrid’s performance, Liza’s portrayal of Nina in that scene was so powerful, it made this character a force to be reckoned with. The emotionality was very strong in Liza’s performance!

The scenery: Even though most of this movie takes place indoors, it did feature some nice scenery! A scene where Nina travels to the city showcases some of the sights of Rome and Venice, where A Matter of Time was filmed. Through her bus window, monuments and mammoth sized buildings are set against a clear, blue sky. Earth tone limestone covered some of the facilities, contrasting the black concrete roads leading to them. More sights from Rome and Venice could be seen in a montage where Nina goes sightseeing. Shots of the city’s landscape emphasis the large scope of this particular location. Statues served as everlasting art that patrons could enjoy in any season. Even some foliage was included in this montage, with red-ish trees located near a ledge and around a town center. These shots highlighted some of the most photogenic parts of these cities, potentially encouraging some viewers to plan their next vacation!

The messages and themes: While I wasn’t expecting A Matter of Time to contain relatable messages and themes, I appreciate their inclusion in this story. They were timeless and felt just as relevant now as they did in the mid to late ‘70s. One message revolved around being yourself. Even though this particular message has been shared on numerous occasions, it was nice to hear it coming from the Contessa. It was given as wisdom to Nina, in an effort to help her create her own path in life. An unexpected theme in A Matter of Time was mortality. Throughout the movie, the Contessa refuses to share her life story, saying, “My life belongs to me alone. I tell it only to myself”. She also says, “No one is dead. No one dies unless we wish them to”. These quotes speak volumes about the importance of a life story and the effort of keeping a person’s memory alive. It also reminds viewers how long life can feel, even when time seems so short.

The 5th Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon banner created by Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema. Image found at https://thewonderfulworldofcinema.wordpress.com/2020/06/12/announcing-the-5th-wonderful-ingrid-bergman-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lack of magic: There was a crawling text at the beginning of the film. In this text, it says “What you are about to see may appear like a fairy tale…as we all know some fairy tales come true”. The text also says that Nina experienced a “magic moment”. This gave me the impression that A Matter of Time would be a modern fairy tale, similar to a film like the Hallmark production, Midnight Masquerade. If that was the creative team’s intention for the 1976 movie, they forgot one important ingredient: magic. In a modern fairy tale story, there needs to be a sense of whimsy or magic included in the narrative. The Halloween party in Midnight Masquerade showcases how a feeling of magic can be incorporated into a modern setting. A Matter of Time does not contain that feeling. If anything, it feels more like a drama than a fantasy. The movie makes it seem like Nina was conveniently at the right place and time instead of stumbling across a bit of magic.

The dream sequences:  Dream sequences appeared at certain points in the movie. These sequences were elaborate in nature, showing Nina living a life of glamour and luxury. While the dream sequences looked nice, I found them confusing. There was no distinction if they were dreams or future events from Nina’s life. Smooth transitions were not given to these scenes, making it feel like they were plunked into the story. I understand the dream sequences were meant to add some pizzazz to the overall picture. But their randomness prevented them from making a significant impression.

Grainy film quality: I know the quality of film from the 1970s is going to be different by today’s standards. Since that time period, technology and film-making have progressed tremendously. The presentation of A Matter of Time was grainy, making the production look like it hasn’t aged as well as other movies from the ‘70s. Because of the overall film quality, there were times when I had difficulty seeing characters’ facial expressions. I’m not sure if the videos I watched were recorded from a VHS tape or if that was the movie’s original presentation. But it’s not a good sign if I have trouble seeing what’s on screen.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

To me, A Matter of Time is an ok film. It has components of value; which are strong acting performances, nice scenery, and relatable messages and themes. However, the story is one that audiences have heard before and after the film’s 1976 release. Stories are inevitably going to get repeated over the course of time. When this happens, it’s important for a film’s creative team to find something that sets their project apart. With A Matter of Time, nothing new or unique is offered to the table. It feels like the overall production is ignoring their own message of being yourself. Even though this was a theatrically released project, it came across like a made-for-TV movie with a slightly higher budget. This statement is not made to disrespect television films, as there have been some good ones created over the years. What I mean is the presentation of this movie didn’t justify a theater release. Even though A Matter of Time has a PG rating, there are some pieces that would not appear in a Breen Code era film. These pieces are the following:

  • Some of the language in this script would be objectionable by Breen Code standards. There were times when the characters either swore or used God’s name in vain.
  • Some sexual references were made throughout the story, from Nina referring to a specific body part to a screenwriter wanting to create a violent scene for his upcoming movie.
  • A screenwriter named Mario attacks Nina while she is cleaning his room. Though he is acting out a scene from his script, the act itself would never appear in a Breen Code era movie.
  • Nina wears three dresses that have a low neckline. Even though one of these dresses is paired with a sweater, the sweater is never buttoned up.
  • There are two scenes where it is implied that Nina is not wearing any clothes. One of these scenes is briefly shown during a montage, showing a profile of Nina from her shoulders upward. The second scene shows Nina changing from one outfit to another. Only her back and her shoulders are visible.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen any movie from Ingrid Bergman’s filmography? Which actress would you like to see receive their own blogathon? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The House of God Review (A Month Without the Code #2)

The theme for August’s Genre Grandeur is “Medical Dramas”. I’m not going to lie, I had to do some research in order to find my entry. This is due to how specific the theme itself is. At first, I was going to review Article 99. But while reading some reviews on IMDB, I saw someone bring up the 1984 film, The House of God. Having never heard of this movie until this week, I read its synopsis on IMDB. After that, I was fortunate to find the movie on Youtube. According to IMDB’s description of The House of God, the film shares similarities with shows like M*A*S*H and St. Elsewhere. In fact, St. Elsewhere is referenced by a character named “The Fatman” in the 1984 title. While I’ve only seen pieces of M*A*S*H, I’ve never seen St. Elsewhere. However, I am familiar with each show’s premise.

The House of God poster created by United Artists. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087429/mediaviewer/rm2187241473.

Things I liked about the film:

The camaraderie between the characters: For a story like The House of God, the camaraderie between the characters is the heart and soul of that project. In the 1984 film, there was camaraderie to be found among the interns! The scene where they go to Dr. Watson’s Pub serves as a perfect example. Within this scene, the audience gets to learn about some of the characters. What the scene also does is showcase each of the characters’ distinct personalities. Because of the actors’ performances and their on-screen chemistry, it gave the impression that these characters got along well with each other. It also provided an interesting component to the movie!

A sense of honesty: In the synopsis for The House of God, it says “this film is closer to the truth than the public wants to know”. While watching the movie, I could tell the creative team wanted to present their story as truthful as possible. The character of “The Fatman” is one example of this honesty. He tells one of the interns that the reason why the doctors approve so many procedures is for the hospital to make money. Later in the film, Roy, one of the interns, questions the practices of Jo, one of the residents. He accuses her of caring more about autopsies than the needs of her patients. I know The House of God is based on a book written a real-life doctor. But I’m glad the film’s creative team chose not to sugar coat or glamorize their version of the medical world.

The informational inclusion of the medical world: Whenever a particular industry is showcased in a piece of media, there is sometimes an opportunity for the audience to learn something new. This is certainly the case for The House of God! One of the topics that “The Fatman” constantly brings up is “gomers”. He tells the interns this is an acronym standing for “get out of my emergency room”. “The Fatman” also explains that “gomers” are older patients who are dealing with a variety of medical situations, but are not high-risk. Dialogue like this is effectively used to educate the audience about the world of medicine. It helps them broaden their horizons and educate themselves in a cinematic way.

Heartbeat image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/medical-logo_763775.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/logo”>Logo vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The House of God’s limited scope: At the beginning of the film, the interns are shown a light-up map of the entire hospital. They are also instructed to follow colorful lines on the floor in order to reach a specific ward. Throughout the movie, however, the only areas of the hospital that are highlighted involve older patients and patients that are dealing with high-risk medical situations. I know there’s only so much story that can be told in an hour and forty-eight minutes. I’m also aware of how people in the medical field have to make rotations among different wards during their training period. But because the hospital’s scope was limited, it felt like a disservice was committed.

Limited amount of character development: While I liked the camaraderie among the characters, I never felt like I truly got to know them. That’s because the character development was limited. During the movie, the audience learns a little bit about some of the interns and the people working alongside them. But, in my opinion, more was desired in this department. In The House of God, there was a doctor named Dr. Alfred Pinkus. The only information about this character that the movie provides is he’s from New Zealand and he’s the resident heart consultant of the hospital. Because he is only in the film for a few scenes, the audience isn’t given the opportunity to learn more about him.

No overarching conflict: When I read the synopsis for The House of God, I thought the story was about a group of interns who oppose a lead doctor at the hospital they work at. This caused me to expect a narrative that features underdogs fighting against the leaders in their medical world. Instead, I got a story that didn’t have an overarching conflict. Sure, there were smaller scenarios within the movie that did get resolved. But this made the overall story feel more mundane than interesting. It also makes the synopsis on IMDB sound misleading.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

When I was searching the internet for medical dramas, suggestions for television shows were included as results. One of the most well-known is St. Elsewhere, which was referenced in The House of God. When I look back on this film, I honestly think the story would have benefited as a TV show rather than a movie. There was so much going on The House of God, but not enough time to explore it to the fullest extent. One of these areas is the character development, where some of the characters received a small amount. But the stronger components should not be ignored. The camaraderie among the interns was one of the most interesting parts of this story. It was brought to the audience through the acting performances and on-screen chemistry. This is not one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, but I can think of medical dramas that are better than this one. Despite The House of God being rated R, it could be “breenable”. However, these are the things that would need to be changed:

  • Throughout the film, there was language used that is not Breen Code friendly. This ranges from swearing to sexual references. More appropriate word choices would need to be chosen before production starts.
  • In one scene, Roy, one of the interns, and a nurse passionately kiss. This scene also heavily implies that they are about to have sex. During the screen-writing process, that particular scene would need to be rewritten to fit Breen Code standards.
  • Another scene in this film heavily implied a male and female intern was about to have sex during an autopsy check. These characters took their shirts/smocks off right before passionately kissing. This is another scene that would need to be rewritten to fit Breen Code standards.
  • One scene shows one of the interns using the bathroom. Because this scene doesn’t serve the plot and is not Breen code appropriate, this scene would be removed.
  • One of the interns ends up committing suicide. Instead of showing the act, it could be implied through Breen Code appropriate dialogue.
  • One of the patients at the hospital is shown bleeding. The amount of blood shown on screen would have to be reduced.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen The House of God? Do you like watching medical dramas on television? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Locket Review + 225 & 230 Follower Thank You

At the end of last month, 18 Cinema Lane received 225 followers! Because of my participation in the Esther Williams Blogathon and the 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, I postponed this blog follower dedication review to this week. In that time, my blog also received 230 followers! Originally, this review was going to serve as an entry for the A Month Without the Code Blogathon. But because of everything I just said, I decided this post was only going to be a blog follower dedication review. I haven’t talked about a Hallmark movie in two months, with Nature of Love being the latest one. So, I chose Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Locket for this review. This is a movie I’ve wanted to watch for a few years. One of the reasons was Marguerite Moreau’s involvement in the film. After watching Queen of the Damned, I discovered she had starred in this Hallmark project from 2002. When Hallmark Drama aired it recently, I knew I had to record it on my DVR!

Because I watched this movie through a television recording, I took a screenshot of the poster with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because Marguerite Moreau is one of the reasons why I watched this film, I’ll talk about her performance first. Even though I haven’t watched many of her movies, I’ve noticed how her portrayals feel believable with what her character is experiencing. This is certainly the case for her performance in The Locket! Faye, Marguerite’s character, always appeared natural in her responses to various situations. It allowed me to stay invested in her part of the story. Another aspect to Marguerite’s performance is how her transitions between emotions were flawless! One good example takes place after Faye and Michael deliver Christmas gifts. Toward the beginning of this interaction, Faye is happy to spend time with her boyfriend. As she notices his demeanor, Faye’s face changes to showing an expression of concern. Speaking of Michael, I need to talk about Chad Willett’s performance. Throughout The Locket, Chad used a wide range of emotions. In a scene where Michael visits someone from his past, he appears angry and can be seen crying. Another scene, when Michael is telling Faye about his scholarship, shows him displaying happiness on his face. This part of Chad’s performance made the overall portrayal seem dynamic! I can’t review this movie without discussing Vanessa Redgrave’s performance. What I liked about it was how honest it came across. This component added depth to Vanessa’s portrayal. A good example is her character’s, Esther’s, first encounter with Michael. When he’s changing her bedsheets, Esther compliments Michael for not telling her she’s still beautiful. This is because she thinks that statement is silly.

Whitewood Nursing Home: A significant part of this story takes place at a nursing home called Whitewood. Despite this location serving a medical purpose, it didn’t feel like a medical facility. In fact, it looked and felt like a bed and breakfast! The interior design consistently ran throughout the home. Furniture helped make the rooms seem cozy, with armchairs in the bedrooms and main living room adding to this aesthetic. Detailed and flowery wallpaper displayed soft, pastel colors. This caused the overall location to have a calming effect. Fireplaces made of brick and wood completed the interior design of the rooms, making the home feel inviting. The exterior design of Whitewood is a large white wood structure, hence the name of the facility. These factors gave the impression of the home carrying a sense of importance. Because it is important to take care of the older members of a community, this appearance of the nursing home is fitting.

The on-screen chemistry: As I mentioned earlier in this review, Michael and Faye are in a dating relationship. Anytime they interacted with each other, I could tell Chad and Marguerite had strong on-screen chemistry! This caused their characters to feel like they truly cared about one another. Faye’s first visit to Whitewood is a good example of this. When Faye meets up with Michael, I could see her investment in what is happening in Michael’s life. This investment can also be seen when Michael learns about Faye’s acceptance into medical school. Non-romantic relationships also had good on-screen chemistry! Michael’s friendship with Esther came across like they got along well. It also effectively showed how they tried to understand each other. The scene where Esther explains the locket’s importance to Michael serves as one example.

I couldn’t review this film without featuring a picture of a locket. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Marguerite Moreau: Marguerite is not only the third billed actor in this movie, she is also the main supporting actress. Despite this, she was kind of under-utilized in The Locket. While she was given enough material to make her performance memorable, her on-screen presence was not as consistent as I expected. Most of her appearances can be found in the film’s first half, with her character barely appearing in the second half of the movie. This makes me wonder if Marguerite was working on Queen of the Damned around the same time she was working on The Locket?

The locket is an afterthought: Before watching this film, I had expected the locket itself to affect the lives of the people surrounding it. Because the movie is called The Locket, I thought this artifact would have a large influence over the story. Sadly, this piece of jewelry ends up being an afterthought. Most of the film revolves around Michael and his hardships. When an explanation of the locket’s importance is finally given, happening about forty-five minutes into the movie, it takes place during one dialogue and video heavy scene. What would have made this artifact emotionally affective is if flashbacks from Esther’s life or from around the time Esther received the locket would have been sprinkled throughout the story.

Scenes that feel rushed: There were some scenes in The Locket that, to me, felt rushed. In one scene, Michael is at the VA Hospital, picking up a prescription for a patient at Whitewood. The very next scene shows Michael sharing some good news to Esther. Scenes like the one at the VA Hospital made it seem like the film’s creative team wanted to get certain parts of the story done and over with just to get to the next point. What also doesn’t help is how these scenes didn’t have effective transitions. It caused scenes like the one with Michael and Esther to feel too sudden.

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My overall impression:

Before I talk about my overall impression, I’d like to thank all of my followers who helped my blog reach this milestone! Your investment in 18 Cinema Lane plays a role in its overall success! Now, time to discuss my final thoughts on The Locket! As glad as I am to have finally seen this movie, I recognize there are Hallmark Hall of Fame titles with similar ideas that are stronger than this one. Two examples are the 1998 film, Grace & Glorie,and 2011’s The Lost Valentine. One thing that The Locket was missing was an emphasis on the locket itself. Instead of having a story where this piece of jewelry impacts the lives surrounding it, the audience received a narrative where the locket is treated as an afterthought. I know there were three Hallmark Hall of Fame movies released in 2002. But, for whatever reason, there were times when The Locket felt rushed. Despite these flaws, the movie did have its strengths. The acting was definitely a high-light of this project, especially Marguerite Moreau’s performance! For me, she stole the show and even outshined the other actors involved! I just wish her on-screen presence would have been more consistent.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Is there a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that you enjoying? Would you like to recommend a Hallmark Hall of Fame film for me to review? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen